Bulgogi Ssam (Meat Lettuce Wraps)


Serves 4. 

When I first moved to Austin in 2013, it didn’t take long to realize there was no place to go when I had a craving for my grandmother’s cooking, or even a place to get simple Korean barbecue that was accessible to non-Korean speakers. But one conversation with Chef Todd Duplechan, owner of Lenoir and Métier, led to a an opportunity for me to introduce my family’s cuisine via a Korean pop-up at Lenoir in the summer of 2014. I included galbi ssam (marinated short rib lettuce wraps) as the final course. In today’s recipe, I’m using the same marinade as I did for the ribs but with a different cut of meat. Bulgogi literally translates to “fire meat.” Ideally, you would grill the meat over charcoal or on a gas grill, but you can easily sauté it in a pan, too.

Super easy

Bulgogi Ssam (Meat Lettuce Wraps)


For 1 Batch(es)


  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cups pureed or grated fruit (I prefer Asian pear but you can use Fuji apple, kiwi, pineapple, etc. When using pineapple, be careful not to leave the meat in the marinade for more than an hour because the meat will begin to disintegrate.)
  • 1 cups soy sauce
  • 1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons gochugaru (Korean red pepper; you can substitute ground black pepper or cayenne pepper, to taste)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, cut into slivers
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped
  • 2 pounds meat (I prefer either rib-eye or hanger steak - which can be purchased at Salt & Time-sliced thinly by the butcher or by hand. If doing it yourself, it helps to slightly freeze the meat before slicing to achieve thin slices.)
  • whole-leaf red Bibb lettuce, washed
  • cooked rice, for serving
  • Ssamjang (spicy Korean sauce available at Asian markets), for serving
  • Perilla leaves (available at Springdale Farm from my grandmother's seeds, or you can substitute shiso leaves available at most Asian markets), for serving
  • Kimchi, for serving
  • Pickled garlic and/or pickled garlic scapes (homemade or purchased at an Asian market)

Bulgogi Ssam (Meat Lettuce Wraps) Directions

  1. Grate (using a Microplane) or finely chop the garlic, ginger and Asian pear and place in a bowl.
  2. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar and gochugaru and mix well.
  3. Add the onion and scallions to the bowl.
  4. Add the meat slices and incorporate into the marinade.
  5. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 12, depending on the thickness of the meat.
  6. Remove the meat from the marinade and grill over hot coals or on a gas grill for a few minutes per side.
  7. Serve with the lettuce leaves, rice, hot sauce, perilla leaves, kimchi and pickled garlic or scapes to make individual wraps.

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